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RSC publishes sponsorship policy in response to BP funding controversy

Arts sponsorship from oil companies has long been criticised by environmental campaigners. Photo: Julius Kielaitis/Shutterstock
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The Royal Shakespeare Company has for the first time published its policy around sponsorship, amid ongoing criticisms from campaigners over the company’s partnership with BP.

However, the policy has been labelled “disappointing” and “woolly” by environmental campaigners calling for the company to end its association with the oil and gas giant.

On its website, the RSC has made public its donation and sponsorship acceptance policy, which outlines the three principles upon which it decides whether or not to accept gifts. They must support the charitable objective of the RSC, reflect the company’s integrity and not influence its artistic decisions.

It goes on to say that the RSC’s board takes ultimate responsibility for accepting or refusing donations and sponsorship, and it is its responsibly to act in the best interests of the organisation.

An RSC spokeswoman told The Stage it had begun putting key policy documents on its website “as a matter of course to allow for greater understanding of the work of the RSC”. An updated version of the document on donations and sponsorship had recently been approved by the board.

The RSC receives sponsorship from BP to fund its £5 tickets scheme, and has in the past described the money it receives from corporate sponsors as an important part of its mixed funding model.

Arts sponsorship from oil companies has long been criticised by environmental campaigners, who claim the practice is “outdated and unacceptable” and out of step with audiences.

Campaign group Culture Unstained praised the RSC for making its policy public. However, in a blog on its website it said the document was “disappointingly vague”.

The group criticised the fact that ethics were not included in the decision-making process, and called on the RSC to align its stance more closely with environmental goals.

It went on to take issue with one of the policy’s three principles: that sponsorship must “reflect the integrity of the RSC”.

The group said: “If the RSC says it is committed to being forward-thinking, environmentally aware and sustainable, but then takes money from BP, it surely makes a nonsense of this commitment and damages the RSC’s credibility in the process.

“The ethics of fundraising will always be complex and require deliberation and value judgements, but it is the responsibility of every high-profile, well-respected organisation – especially those in receipt of significant amounts of public funding – to avoid associating themselves with companies that are doing great damage in the world.”

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